Krudd, go [CENSORED] yourself

Over at Dangerous Intersection, I vent my spleen, an ink sac and a few of my gas bladders over Krudd’s interwebs blacklist:

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This stinks. I do not want my country to join North Korea, Thailand (which recently imprisoned an Australian writer for committing the heinous crime of criticising its royal family) and China on the list of the many countries in the world that are associated with such gross, inappropriate censorship and restrictions of peoples’ free speech. Generations of my own family risked their lives fighting imperialism &
fascism in order to preserve our freedom to speak and seek whatever information we choose to. I voted against the Howard government in our last election partly because of its unapologetic cosying up to the repressive Bush regime (and partly because I always voted against the Howard government).


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Herr Ratzinger continues the massacre

[Doubled from Dangerous Intersection]

HIV/AIDS is possibly the worst health crisis to hit this planet. It’s also arguably the worst thing to happen to the African continent since white people were regularly kidnapping its inhabitants and trading them like farm machinery.

But the one hopeful thing about the whole situation is this: while there’s no cure yet, AIDS is easily preventable. Ridiculously easily preventable. Avoiding the sharing of needles & using contraception are the two most effective ways to avoid the long, tortuous, wasting death we’ve all come to associate with this horrendous epidemic. And if you’re not an intravenous drug user (or you studiously avoid sticking sharp, blood-stained things in your body), there’s 50% of your prevention pretty much sorted already.

So … how the hell are you supposed to react when the gold-robed, paedophile-protecting dictator-for-life of the Catholic Church continues to threaten people with eternal torment for using contraception during sex (based on a very, very, um, interpretive interpretation the Bible) and instead tells people “just say no” to sex? In this story (BBC) Pope Oberstumbannfuhrer Herr Kaiser Ratzinger (I refuse to use his picked-out stagename, he’s not Axl Rose for crying out loud) once again proves to the world that not only is his outlook anachronistic, unrealistic & laughable, it’s also flat-out fatal. To millions upon millions of people.

In the referenced article Ratzinger, in the very same breath, calls AIDS a “cruel epidemic” and then follows that with this clanger: “The traditional teaching of the church has proven to be the only failsafe way to prevent the spread of HIV/Aids.” Except when it hasn’t, doesn’t, isn’t and won’t. Obviously.

Allow me to rephrase & clarify that statement for you, Popey: “The inestimable, genocidal cruelty of AIDS is most efficiently perpetuated by people in positions of power (like Popes, for example) asking poverty-stricken superstitious people, living in abject fear for their very souls, to do what amounts to the impossible.”

In the past, before I knew much about AIDS’ awful presence in Africa (for instance, the article states that today, around 60% of the entire world’s AIDS 40 million patients are African and up to 1000 die each day), whenever I’d hear some robed halfwit with celestial voices in his head make a pig-ignorant statement like that of Ratzinger’s I’d just roll my eyes, sigh and think “Gosh, those wacky Catholics. At it again, asking the impossible and being ignored by the world, even Catholics. Laugh out loud!” But after a while I realised that while most people in the developed world treat Ratzinger’s words with all the respect they deserve, large swathes of Africa (and other developing regions) are still tightly gripped by superstition of all kinds and take the word of people like Herr Ratzinger and his little wizards as gospel. Accordingly, they avoid the simplest precautions against unwanted pregnancies and definitely unwanted STDs because they’ve been taught that wasting sperm incurs God’s wrath.

Then there was this gritty little cultured pearl of wisdom:

It is of great concern that the fabric of African life, its very source of hope and stability, is threatened by divorce, abortion, prostitution, human trafficking and a contraception mentality [emphasis mine]

Righto. Right up there as the biggest threats to Africa’s future, along with human trafficking (a modern form of slavery if there ever was one) and prostitution (often related to said trafficking) are those gravest of grave sins: the right to choose if you conceive a child during sex (regardless of whether the sex was legal or consensual), the right to not carry an embryo into actual foetus-hood and that most awful of activities, the right to end a relationship.

Does this geriatric idiot in the imperial robes who lives in a palace not see the links – right there in his very own statement? There’s human trafficking – desperate, poor people either taken advantage of or simply forced into such activities as prostitution – quite often not presenting a choice to the new sex-slave about who they have sex with, when they have sex with them and whether the “customer” protects himself or not. Divorce – well, in many cultures across the globe, obviously including Africa, people (and by “people” I mean “women”) don’t get a choice who they marry or when their new spouse decides to consummate that marriage (search the web for “obstetric fistula” – a painful & embarrassing condition which occurs way too often in underage African girls). Abortion, that old Catholic standby – well, disregarding the fact that a fertilised ovum or a tiny clump of undifferentiated cells isn’t a human being – what if you’re nine years old and aren’t physically capable of carrying a child to term? Well, if you’d read the news lately that doesn’t matter to the Papacy. Their official response? Excommunicate the doctors and the kid’s family – but not the mangy son of a bitch stepfather who repeatedly raped the girl from when she was six years old – then impregnated her with twins which would almost certainly have killed the girl. But hey, everyone knows it’s par for the course for the Vatican to protect child-rapists.

Rape & sex-slavery & STDs aside, even in the average committed, loving, monogamous relationship – even one completely without risk – there should be a choice. There should be a right to choose not to have a child. One word comes to mind when people think of Africa: poverty. If you can’t afford to feed & clothe & educate a child, there is absolutely no reason that you should be forced to have one. To force people, under the threat of eternal damnation, to simultaneously conceive children they cannot support and risk contracting the deadliest disease ever experienced by humanity is possibly the most reprehensibly immoral act that can be undertaken by a person in a position of power and responsibility. Ratzinger knows the effect his words will have among the faithful, he knows what the stakes are and, unless he’s been living under a rock (maybe not but I’m willing to bet he sleeps in a coffin), he surely must know what the results have been from decades of official Vatican “don’t protect yourself, just say no to sex” wisdom. Of course he knows all that, for crying out loud. But why care too much about adding millions more to the existing millions of sick & dying Africans? There are more where that came from, right Ratzi? Of course there are going to be if you tell people they’ll burn in Hell for wasting their sperm. And hey – dying slowly & horribly of AIDS and watching all your kids starve, followed by eternal bliss in heaven has just got to be better than a long, healthy life followed by forever with a red-hot pitchfork inserted somewhere less than convenient. Right?

But, honestly, I don’t know how to react anymore. These days when I hear Ratzinger, as he frequently does, displaying a stark ignorance of the realities of the world (unmatched except perhaps by Sarah Palin or your average coma patient) or condemning people to what he surely must know is an early death, I’m not sure if I should scream unintelligibly at my screen, post floweringly verbose excoriations, sigh in defeat & just sit and feel powerless and frustrated or … just have a healthy, profane vent & say “Ratzinger. Hey. Shut the fuck up. You’re killing people with this retarded dogma of yours – actually killing people – just as much as if you strangled them with your own bony, pampered hands. Your words are weapons of genocide – a war crime in peace-time, a crime against humanity – and if anyone’s going to Hell, you elderly virgin whose first & last experience of a naked woman was being pushed, tiny, wet & screaming, out of one, it’s going to be you, because you had the opportunity to save millions of lives and you bailed on it, your mind enslaved by your precious god-damned magic book. And once you’re there, roasting, I hope the millions of victims of your arrogant delusions & murderous idiocy visit you in Hell to kick your balls right up through your face.”

Here endeth the rant.

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Muffins and the end of innocence

“Did you know there’s totally science behind muffins? Totally ruined muffins for me.”
Ah, the wisdom of youth. That particularly large & shiny pearl came from a blazered private school girl of perhaps 15 who I was standing next to (almost on top of) on my Connex-brand cattle-truck – I mean, “train” – this morning. Girl Student (henceforth “GS”) was bemoaning the fact that in her cooking class her teacher explained that the release of carbon dioxide during the cooking process was responsible for the rising of muffins and for the tiny little pockets of air that end up being formed in all things baked. So, in response to this new but unwanted & unwelcome knowledge, GS now proclaims her hatred for – or at least new found apathy toward – the little round cakes she used to love.

Naturally, her comment got me thinking. Does GS approach every mundane mystery in her life in such a manner? Would she disavow Myspace if she figured out that barely any of those seventeen thousand and eighty-four “friends” of hers actually qualified for such a title? Would she stop catching the train if she knew a tad more about electricity? What if she found out what keeps planes in the air? Sweet flaming crikey, no more summer trips to the Whitsundays then (probably a good thing, it’d totally suck to find out how that big hot disc in the sky is making you slightly darker). Safer stuck at home I guess, with just the TV/Wii/Blu-Rayer/microwave/mobile phone for company … on the other hand, perhaps not. Perhaps all those modern wonders are just a fresh crop of parades waiting to be stripped of their brilliance by the acid rain of knowledge. You never know what awful, awful knowledge might leach into your brain if you sit on the remote and accidentally switch to the Discovery Channel.

However, I’m willing to give GS the benefit of the doubt. After all, when you’re 15 you’re really just on the on-ramp to true sentience and mental independence. You’re just starting to simultaneously figure out & shape both who you are and who you’re going to be. Too much info all at once at such a critical time can confuse you and make your brain seize up and annoy the crud out of you – even if the forbidden knowledge is just a three-second soundbite revealing the awful truth about your favourite cake. I do, however, wonder what she thought made muffins rise before she had her world shattered by learning of just one function of one of the planet’s most common gases. How about muffin gnomes? Well, that just raises more questions than it answers, such as “where do they go once they’ve carved all those little air-pockets?” and “why do some muffins collapse in the middle? Have we displeased the gnomes?”

It’s not just brand new adults who think this way. People who have been adults for many, many years and who’ve developed a more relaxed & accepting attitude toward baking employ precisely the same “don’t spoil it for me” attitude toward other important mysteries of the universe as GS does toward her once-beloved treat. We’ve all met such people. Perhaps we’ve even been them at some point or we’re likely continuing to be them even as we speak! Perhaps I shouldn’t spell things out though, so as to avoid offending anyone’s cherished personal beliefs with regard to important questions as “how do magicians saw girls in half anyway?” or “why do I always beat that guy who seems to live at the bar at 8-ball the first time, but never the second? What does he do with all my money?”

There is a point here, folks. The point is this: I believe wholeheartedly that in most cases it’s better to learn the truth than live in ignorance. Of course, I concede that it doesn’t actually matter to most people the precise scientific process that’s going on in a rising muffin. Even so, once you find out, why resist it? Why choose to loathe muffins because you learned something new about them? How exactly does learning about carbon dioxide spoil your enjoyment of a muffin? Well, I suppose the simple & short answer to that is that it shouldn’t. But that’s not an answer, because learning the facts behind an everyday something really does spoil a lot of things for a lot of people. My actual answer would be that some beliefs about the world are sacred to a lot of people and that they invest a lot of themselves in those beliefs. Beliefs can be as intertwined with someone’s self-worth as their physical appearance or occupation or the car they drive, so if anything comes along that challenges a particular belief (or simple in-hindsight preference to have remained ignorant of a particular truth, in the case of Girl Student), it can be painful to hear and elicit an almost autonomic fight-or-flight response. In such cases, the believer in whatever-it-is can clap their hands over their ears in denial or arc up and start fighting back, shooting the messenger and perhaps even accusing them of some kind of hate crime for daring to share new knowledge or an opinion contrary to their cherished version of the truth. Taking such personal offense at a disagreement or contradictory evidence is inevitable when you’re dealing with strong personal feelings about how certain things are or, at least, how you think they should be.

But whether it’s regarding muffins, microwaves or mammoths, I believe it’s generally better for you, me & us to know the truth about anything & everything than to not know. If you’re labouring under the false assumption that gnomes carve air-pockets in muffins, that your husband is faithful and loves you (even when he goes out every other night without explanation and returns smelling of perfume and sweat and perhaps other fluids), that the dinosaurs were all peaceful vegetarians and were ridden as mighty steeds by early humans (and that every single branch of science which studies them – and that every single other branch which intersects with and confirms the discoveries of, um, dinosaurology – is completely & utterly wrong) then there are probably several other areas in your life where you’re totally kidding yourself. But look: maybe that pain in your chest isn’t indigestion. Maybe the cheque isn’t the mail. Maybe that ex-government minister from Nigeria doesn’t really want you to help him embezzle millions from his government (but he sounds so earnest, and his tenuous grasp of English is really quite endearing! That should be enough to draw anybody into massive intercontinental fraud!). Maybe you and I and GS (and everyone else – I don’t believe for a second that there isn’t one person in the world who isn’t kidding themselves about something) should just accept that all our beliefs about everything – even those we think are based on the most solid & objective evidence – are transitory, only waiting for that one piece of contradictory evidence to send them to the scrapheap.

Because, after all, I’m typing this post as our planet spins through the ether on the back of a magic tortoise, and don’t you dare poop my party.